Look: I know what you’re thinking. What? That’s a ridiculous title for this post because EVERYONE saw The Avengers: Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, ScarJo, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Greg, and Samuel Motherf**king Jackson. That is coo, bro. You can’t beat that.
Oh, but I think I can. And no, it’s not Inception, although Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Marion Cottilard, Michael Caine, and Cillian Murphy is tough to beat. But then again, any one of the Dark Knight movies ranks right up there, too, because it’s essentially the same people, give or take a Christian Bale or a Heath Ledger.
Those are cool casts. So were the Oceans films: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Al Pacino, Casey Affleck? I mean, damn, right?
Then there’s the Wes Anderson cadre of regulars, be it Royal Tenenabaums (The Wilson Brothers, Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth) or Moonrise Kingdom (Willis, Murray, Norton, McDormand, SWINTON) or even Life Aquatic (give or take a Wilson brother, add a Blanchett and Dafoe).
Cool? Absolutely. I’d put the Anderson movies on par with The Departed (Wahlberg, Damon, Nicholson, Martin Sheen, DiCaprio, Vera Farmiga), or of course, for those who appreciate pure actressin’, there was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Firth, Oldman, Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, John Hurt), but you know what? I’d probably put Anchorman (Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Kathryn Haghn) in the conversation as well.
I also wouldn’t want to forget about X-Men (Jackman, Page, Berry, Patrick Stewart, Anna Pacquin, Ray Park) or even X-Men: First Class (McAvoy, Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, January Jones, Rose Byrne), either.
Most people wouldn’t consider State of Play (McAdams, Crowe, Affleck, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright, Jeff Daniels, Viola Davis), but I’d have to at least consider it. Likewise, Lord of the Rings (Elijah Wood, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Viggo, Ians Holm and McKellan, and Andy Serkis) deserves some consideration.
In the end, though, for pure Pajiba awesomeness, I’d have to ultimately go with a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell, Mary Louise Parker, Casey Affleck, Paul Schneider, James Carville, Nick Cave, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Shepard, and Garret Dillahunt. It’s subjective, of course, as all things are, but if you’d asked me if I’d rather have a film starring Hemsworth, Downey, Jr., and Ruffalo or one starring Rockwell, Renner, Dillahunt, and Brad Pitt at his best, I’d go with the latter before I ever saw the trailer, although I’m willing to concede it would be a close call. The Oscar-nominated cinematography, the Terrence Malick approach, and Jeremy Renner’s frozen bare ass would probably put it over the top for me.
The movie came from Andrew Dominik who introduced Eric Bana to the wider world in Chopper, and who has another phenomenal ensemble out in a movie this weekend called Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard). I speak, of course, of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a movie I just caught over the weekend, five years too late to include it among There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men as one of the best films of 2007. It made less than $4 million at the box office, but the film absolutely blew me away, and I co-sign everything Daniel Carlson wrote in his original review of the film.
The point of this post: It’s great to revisit those under appreciated gems of years past, and I just want to put The Assassination of Jesse James in your ear for the next time you’re looking for a sublimely acted, incredibly scored, gorgeously rendered film about a major historical figure that hews awfully damn close to the true story. Just make sure to put aside two-and-a-half hours for the film, and another hour for researching the fascinating veracity of the film’s account.